Dressed for Success

Posted Oct. 30, 2008, at 7:08 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 3:27 a.m.

Earlier this month, fashion designer and critic Richard Blackwell died at 86. His list of worst-dressed celebrities skewered the popular and the powerful. Though he died before the news broke, Mr. Blackwell probably would have been gratified to learn that the McCain campaign spent $150,000 on clothing and hairstyling for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family.

The crossing of these two news stories leads to an inexorable conclusion: We need an arbiter of politician fashion. Based on what we’ve seen, there’s work to be done.

Democrat Barack Obama moves across a stage like silk on satin. He’s tall and trim, and no doubt drops some serious bucks on his well-tailored suits. But when he chooses the “man of the people” look and loses the coat and tie, the image goes awry. Too often, Sen. Obama, for some reason, won’t undo the top button, making him look like a foreign exchange student trying, but failing, to assimilate to American culture. Or like a minister in some minor religious sect that believes sin is held in check by that all-important top button.

On her recent visit to Bangor, Gov. Palin noted the good showing of “Carhartts and steel-toed boots” in the audience at the airport hangar. We’d rather see our Maine politicians sporting that kind of garb than some of the choices they make.

Democrat Mike Michaud should remember cuffs ought to be seen protruding from the sleeves of his sports coat. His Republican challenger, John Frary, has made a conscious effort to evoke the sartorial splendor of a bygone era with his wide-lapel, broad-pinstripe suits, garnished with a carnation. He gets style points, for sure, but why does he want to evoke the 1930s? Is he subliminally trying to scare the electorate into voting for someone who knows how to dress for a depression?

And then there’s our governor. The new glasses are stylish but perhaps he should add a couple new sweaters to his Christmas list.

If one were inclined to put a best and worst side-by-side, Charlie Summers, the Republican 1st Congressional District candidate, gets the “best” billing. When he met with the BDN editorial board, Mr. Summers — who is tall and blond — wore faded jeans, along with a white shirt (no tie) and dark blue blazer. The Mr. Blackwell worst award has got to go to the perennially rumpled Dennis Bailey of CasinosNO! Mr. Bailey also may be affiliated with IronsNO! CombsNO! and TiesNO!

No wonder the presidential candidates didn’t pick running mates from Maine.

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